At a press conference in New York today, Spotify announced that it is moving in a "new direction" - one that is said to be a "game-changer" for digital music.
CEO Daniel Ek announced that the streaming-music service has now become a music platform, thanks to a new integration of user apps that aim to supplement the service's listening experience. Additionally, Ek announced that Spotify has opened its API to third-party developers to build atop its massive library of 15 million songs, as well as utilize its community of Facebook-integrated users.
"Once you take a look, you'll see why we believe this is truly the beginning of something game-changing for digital music," Ek said wearing a simple get-up comprised of jeans and a black hoodie. "We think this will lead to integrations that keep Spotify beautiful and simple, but layer in great musical experiences designed to be social and fun. It's what our users have been asking us for."
Ek said that users have been pleading for DJ modes, better curation, and the ability to buy concert tickets. With the arrival of these new apps from partners such as Billboard, Last.fm, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Songkick, TuneWiki and more, users have gotten at least some of what they've been waiting for.
This new direction takes strategic cues from Spotify's social networking partner, Facebook, and provides a hint at one direction that rival or competing music-streaming services may take in the future.
Presently, the apps are only available on the desktop version of Spotify, but will likely be brought over to other devices. As for third-party developers, Spotify must approve of the apps before listing them in the Spotify player.
"There's really only that much that Spotify can do," Ek said. "We really look forward to being surprised by our developers. They're going to deliver new apps on the Spotify platform and they're going to be things here than we can't even imagine today."
At the Billboard FutureSound Conference held in San Francisco earlier this month, super angel investor Ron Conway emphasized that digital music is still very much in its infancy. Conway, who was a key investor in the early days of Google, Napster, Twitter and many more, made note of the rising app movement on the horizon for digital music:
"We're going to see a wave of applications where consumers can curate in their own interest areas on top of existing platforms," Conway told the FutureSound audience. "Remember when the iPhone came out, people said there might be 50 apps for iPhone. Now there are hundreds of thousands. I think there will be an equal number of apps built on these music platforms."
This latest move from Spotify demonstrates that the next evolutionary step for music services may be to become platforms for innovation. By opening up their doors to third-party developers, the aim is to not only make the user experience on their platform a better one, but also allowing room for new services and experiences to be built within the Spotify experience - similar to how Google Chrome and Firefox offer applications and browser extensions for users to integrate with their browsing experience, and how Zynga develops games on Facebook.
Now that Spotify has opened its doors to third-party developers with its massive database of content, a new and very large "sandbox" has opened up for developers to play around in.
However, at least one large issue remains in that developers are not incentivized to build on the Spotify platform: Spotify is not offering developers direct monetization; there will be no paid apps nor any revenue sharing. However, presumably this could change based on how successful the platform is.
Was this announcement truly a call for innovation, or Spotify's way of demonstrating its influence? How much innovation will this transition from service to platform actually produce? Time will tell.